KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia is seeking US$3 million (S$4 million) from the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) to develop a national plan to adapt to climate change, the environment ministry said last week, amid deadly floods that displaced nearly 70,000 people this month.
The funds requested are paltry relative to the amount the country has pledged to spend on flood mitigation efforts, though experts say the plan's implementation would likely cost much more.
Since Dec 18, torrential rain has caused severe flooding that killed at least 48 people in eight Malaysian states, prompting calls for the government to improve its preparedness to extreme weather events.
In response to questions sent to the Environment and Water Ministry on Dec 20 on Malaysia's approach to climate adaptation, Secretary-General Zaini Ujang replied that the ministry will request the GCF funds to help develop a National Adaptation Plan by the end of next year.
The plan will focus on areas such as water, agricultural, and food security, public health, forestry, and infrastructure, Dr Zaini said in a written response.
"The ministry also has long-term plans to request for climate funds that can assist in implementing programmes addressing the impact of climate change," he said.
Dr Zaini did not give specific details on the adaptation plan, or how much the government would need to implement it.
The GCF funds are the first time the Malaysian government has sought any money for climate adaptation, which are policies that a country puts in place to deal with climate change effects.
The funds pale in comparison to the RM9.8 billion (S$3.2 billion) for flood mitigation projects such as building water barriers, catchment areas, and deepening rivers that Dr Zaini said Malaysia has set aside already.
"Adaptation will take much more funds compared to mitigation because we need to overhaul our urban planning; all these costly infrastructure projects," said Ms Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, a co-founder of climate activist group Klima Action Malaysia.
A draft adaptation plan should examine the interaction of flooding or droughts on food security and crop yields and the need for energy efficient healthcare services with strong communication systems, she said.
In 2018, Ms Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia's then environment minister, proposed a so-called Climate Change Act along with an adaptation strategy, but a formal plan was never submitted to Parliament and progress faltered amid political turmoil in 2020.
Malaysia typically has flooding on its eastern coasts that are exposed to the north-east monsoon between October and March.
But the authorities were caught off-guard by unusually heavy rainfall and flooding this month in highly populated urban areas in its western and central regions, which some experts say were worsened by poor drainage and overdevelopment.